Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/569/7013
Cardiff student occupation: University divests from arms trade
Students set up Cardiff University Against the War when we discovered that the university had around £209,000 invested in arms companies such as BAE Systems and General Electric. These companies supply the Israeli armed forces.
From a protest in solidarity with the people of Gaza outside the student union we launched the occupation. Yahya Al Faifi, a Saudi asylum seeker and trade unionist who worked at BAE systems in Saudi Arabia, addressed the demo. We then filtered slowly into the main building and occupied the Shandon lecture theatre.
Meetings were organised to work out our demands. These included a complete divestment of all shares in all arms companies, specifically BAE Systems and General Electric; an ethical investment policy; at least five scholarships for Gazan students to come to Cardiff; supplies, such as old computers and books, to be sent over to Gaza. We also called on the university to issue a statement in defence of Yahya.
The vice chancellor told us to leave, but we stuck it out. On the second day we got a video link with Gazan students. The university tried to prevent this by disabling all network and internet connections in the lecture theatre, but eventually we got it working. The Gazan students hadn't been to school for four weeks. They all knew someone who had died. They sang a Palestinian song for us, and we sang the Internationale, a traditional song of workers' solidarity, back.
The occupation was advertised on Newport City Radio and we got messages of solidarity, including from Noam Chomsky. People donated food and water.
On the third day, we received an email confirming that the university had divested shares from BAE systems and most shares from General Electric. However, we were given an ultimatum to leave or to stay with no one being allowed in or out.
We wanted to go out on a high, so we decided to have a procession out of the university. We left all together shouting: "books, not bombs!" and "viva viva palestina!" While we didn't get everything we wanted, we scored some successes and agreed that this was only the beginning of the struggle.
Megan Beardsley-Price, Cardiff Socialist Students
In The Socialist 4 March 2009:
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party feature
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis